The Business Edge Blog

Custom Web Development Ramblings

C# is Number 4 on the Top 10 Programming Languages

28

April
2014
Posted By : Brandon Spilove Comments (1)

Check out Mashable's list of Top 10 Programming Languages you should learn in 2014. C# comes in at number 4, beating out PHP, Ruby, Python and Objective-C. C# is an elegant, object oriented language, and we love programming in it.

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Categories : ASP.Net | Web Development
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Business Web Apps Should Be Developed In Asp.Net and SQL Server

26

April
2014
Posted By : Brandon Spilove Comments (0)

  As a business owner myself, I understand the technology challenges that other business owners face. And as a 25 year veteran developer, I have a deep understanding of how web apps are built and maintained, and the implications that technology and platform decisions have on the health of the software and the ability for it to be supported in the future. I am also very aware of the camp wars that play out every day on tech forums and in the comments sections of popular blog sites.When it comes to web app development, there are many choices for the platform with which to build it. One of the biggest choices is whether to go with open source or proprietary. Open source typically includes Java, PHP, or Ruby on Rails. Proprietary typically means Microsoft Asp.Net.Unfortunately, there are many businesses that are simply unaware of the long term implications of choosing one platform over another. The open source community is very loud, and their biggest argument, that open source means “free” and Microsoft means $$$, resonates throughout the business world.So how do you decide which platform is right for your business? Free and open source software is great in theory, but when you need to bank the future of your business on your software, you should choose a platform that has corporate support. Building your business on free tools may seem like a good idea at first, but when you start relying on the future of the platform for your business, with open source there are no guarantees.The HeartBleed bug that affected OpenSSL is a perfect example of what I am talking about. Many businesses decided to secure their sensitive data using technology they got for free. This seems crazy to me. Not that Microsoft hasn’t had its share of vulnerabilities, but they are a solid company that stands behind their technology and when vulnerabilities are found they offer documentation and patches and a strategy to manage risk within software and corporate networks.Choosing the right platform for your business is an important one. Think of it in other terms, would you furnish your office with furniture that you got for free? What type of quality do you think comes with free furniture? What about employees that work for free, what kind of reliability do they offer? If you have machinery that you rely on, did you pick that up from the side of the road for free somewhere? No, of course not. Yet when it comes to software, which is arguably the most vital component in any organization, there is a mindset that it should be free and open source. This is very unfortunate. Don’t bank the future of your business on free software.  You’ll be better prepared for the future and you’ll give your customers a sense of trust and security that you chose a software platform that has the support of a company like Microsoft behind it. *image above courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Common Pitfalls Businesses Make When Hiring Developers

28

January
2014
Posted By : Brandon Spilove Comments (4)

I want to share a common mistake that I see happen at many businesses when it comes to web development and hiring developers. Here is the scenario: ABC Corp wants to build some web based software to help run their business. They do some research and come across a top notch web development company, Business Edge Services & Technologies! (shameless plug) Business Edge builds them a major web based software application and they start using it to run their business. It quickly becomes a mission critical application. ABC Corp has lots of additions they want to make to the software, so they ask Business Edge to implement new features and make other changes to the application over the next year or so. At some point, ABC Corp begins to think it would be better if they hire their own developer to work on the application. So they go out and hire someone and they get to work. All sounds great so far, right? Well, maybe not: 1. Building software for one company is not a full time job. The idea is to build the software and finish it. After all, the benefit in building your own software is so that you can use it after it's done and benefit from the ROI. If you hire a developer and plan to continuously develop it, then you never stop paying. 2. Developers get bored. Hiring a developer to build one application for one company is not going to keep a developer interested for the long haul. 3. Developers all develop differently (there's a tongue twister for ya). When your developer inevitably quits and you find yourself needing someone else, the new developer won't like what your old developer did and will want to change everything. This will introduce bugs and other instabilities because they will be making changes in something they didn't initially build. 4. Developers need to be managed. So even if you hire a developer you need someone that can manage them. 5. Today's web development requires more than the skillset of 1 developer. Web development involves many different disciplines these days, including front end, back end, database, mobile, testing, and more. Your 1 developer just became 2 or 3. When your business runs on custom software, the most important thing is continuity. You need to be sure that your software can continue to be supported properly when developers quit and other changes occur. You also don't want to be in a situation where you are trying to come up with work for your developer to keep them busy because you can't think of more features to add. This is why it makes much more sense to hire a web development firm and have them complete the software so that you can start using it. Your web development firm will worry about providing continuity, keeping developers trained on the latest technologies, and keeping the necessary skillsets in house so that your application can be supported now and in the future.

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There Should be an App for That! Why Your Company Should Build a Custom Software Application

29

December
2013
Posted By : Tamara Comments (1)

Isn’t everyone trying to come up with a custom software application? Why are they doing this? Isn’t it just because it is the shiny new toy in the room? Well, actually there are a lot of great reasons to build a custom application. Creating custom computer applications can improve the functionality of your firm or small business. You may consider having custom applications developed if you need to provide a specialized software solution for clients or employees. You also may have a specific need that is not being met by your current software packages. Or you may simply need to save time and money. Whatever the reason, you should look at how the custom software application can help with running your business smoothly and how customers or employees will benefit from using it. Repetitive Tasks. If you are a small business owner, you should think about how custom application software can be developed to save time, and how the software can help your customers. If you have a business that requires any kind of repetitive mundane tasks, or if you find yourself answering the same question over and over to your customers, there can be a custom software solution developed to address these issues. Client Needs. How can a custom-written computer application help your small business? How can you have a strong relationship with your clients? One example would be an ad agency having an application that their clients can use to log in and see work in progress, and follow approval processes. Another could be a veterinarian’s office with a patient portal for pet owners to manage their pet’s health. The possibilities are endless since it is built for your specific needs as a business. Saving Time. For applications such as employee time management or inventory, it might serve your business better if you make a custom software solution that they are required to use. Some companies opt for using free software which can require configuration time and effort. There is usually little to no technical support available with free software. So, while the free software solutions cost no money, they cost time and effort, and may have costly down time. Having a custom application software package developed can save time in all of these areas. Saving Money. There is plenty of software out there that is part of an expensive software suite. Many firms may purchase this suite software but only use a part of it, thus paying full price while using only a fraction of what they bought. If you find yourself in this boat, it might be more cost efficient in the long run to hire a development team to create a custom software solution to fit your individual business needs. In addition, when you have the software custom-built for you, you own it, and don’t have to pay annual registration fees with some out of the box software. This brings your cost of ownership down. Privacy. Data can be very sensitive. You may need to collect sensitive data such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, bank accounts, and telephone numbers. For various reasons, you wish to store this data in a custom built database that you will own and control. For example, custom software solutions that use private databases can be ideal for health patients for pharmaceutical companies since health information is some of the most private information which would best serve patients’ needs for discretion and privacy. They are also essential for any retail or ecommerce businesses. Custom application software makes your business or enterprise individual and unique and may be the thing to save you some time and money in the long run.

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Categories : ASP.Net | Web Development

Today's Web Development, All You Need Is One Developer... Plus a Bunch of Other People

21

May
2013
Posted By : Brandon Spilove Comments (4)

There was a time when life for the custom web developer was simpler. Internet Explorer was the only web browser that mattered, the others all had less than significant market share. PCs reigned supreme as well, Mac was rarely considered for compatibility. Most things could be accomplished by a single web developer with a moderate skillset. At worst, we'd have to bring in a graphic designer just to pretty things up a bit, but for the most part, the web developer could take care of everything else. Today, things are much different. Internet Explorer is no longer the only web browser that matters, there are at least 3 others with very significant market share (Firefox, Chrome, Safari). And in fact, Internet Explorer has gone from king of the heap to bane of existence for most. It is the least consistent browser among the whole lot. So even if you are only developing for IE, you still need to develop for IE7, IE8, IE9 and IE10 because all behave differently when rendering the same page of HTML code. But, just as important as compatibility among all the web browsers of today is the need to be compatible across the landscape of mobile devices. There's iPhone, iPad, Android, various tablets, Kindle Fire, Blackberry, and so forth. Not to mention, each platform has its own different version inconsistencies and screen resolution non-conformity and lack of support for Flash and other plugins. Web applications are also hosted in the Cloud now, all of which make for some incredible challenges for today's web developer. So how does a web developer keep up with all of these things and still deliver a solid product that works universally and is scalable and efficient? Well, if you ask me, this is too much to ask of one developer. For an average size web application with 25 screens and typical cross platform requirements, you should figure on at least 1 front end developer, 1 back end developer, 1 web designer, 1 tester, 1 project manager, 1 SEO expert, and 1 account rep. Not to mention, you need a lab with PC's from Windows XP through Windows 8 with different combinations of web browsers installed, a Mac with OSX installed, an iPhone, Android, and a few tablets of varying sizes and OS versions. Oh, you want a mobile app, you'll need an Objective C developer and a Java developer to build Apple and Android apps too! Well that certainly is a lot, but the more the landscape of hardware and software keeps fragmenting, the more people and testing hardware will be needed to make sure it all works. The days of simple web development are over. Today's world is complicated, incompatible, and challenging. The average, general purpose web developers of yesterday are getting left behind for more specialized, more senior developers who are part of a large team. If you're in the market for a web development team, make sure you do your research and find out exactly how big the team is and what capabilities they have before getting started.  

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Categories : ASP.Net | Web Development

Why I Love Retail

2

May
2013
Posted By : Brandon Spilove Comments (0)

Of all the industries my company works with, the Retail industry is the most unique. No other industry behaves the way retail does. Perhaps its the seasonal nature of the business, or the fact that it is run by a lot of creative types, or maybe its because the customers are so finicky and unpredictable. Whatever the reason, as a software developer it makes for an adventurous ride when trying to build something that will last. The industry is a fractured one, there's no question about that. Any given retailer will typically have numerous systems that they need to piece together and make them talk to each other. From warehouse management to order entry to CRM (Customer Relationship Managment) and POS (Point of Sale) and EDI systems. Then there's all the stuff around the edges, and there's a lot, that goes on, whether it is in the form of Excel reports, Access databases, Quick Books software, 3rd party planning tools, Data Warehousing, and on and on. Much of this will even be coming from separate companies, many retailers outsource their warehousing or their POS systems (for ex.) to third parties, thereby making integrations even more complex. To the retailer who wants one system to rule them all, I haven't seen it yet. SAP probably comes closest, but its mainly for large retailers with deep pockets, and even still it doesn't cover everything. Many retailers have their own development teams, writing custom software to run different parts of the business. For me, as a software developer with a love for retail, these are exciting times. Having an intimate knowledge of the retail industry enables me to give something back, and try to make something so fractured come together in a way that is better and more efficient.

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Categories : Web Development
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Outsourcing Web Development, Why Not Just Hire Your Own Developers?

25

April
2013
Posted By : Brandon Spilove Comments (3)

Generally speaking, there are 2 types of outsourced web development. First is outsourcing to a foreign country, which includes those that are completely in another country and those where the developers are located elsewhere but there may be a few sales people here in the US. Second is outsourcing to a fully US based company. The first type of outsourcing should not be considered at all, I'll explain in more detail in a future blog post. But the second type of outsourcing, where you outsource to a US based company, is highly preferred over hiring your own developers. Let's explore the reasons in detail. Before we begin the discussion, it is important to understand the current state of the web development industry. Web developers are in extremely high demand right now. So much so that there is virtually 0% unemployment among web developers, application programmers, and related individuals. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and other large tech companies are hiring web developers at unprecedented rates. They are recruiting college kids directly from the campus, basically sucking up all of the talent in the country. On top of that, here in the US we have a lack of investment in math and science education, and are currently graduating very few Computer Science majors when compared to other countries like India and China. So if you're looking to hire your own web developers, you are going to be competing against companies like Google and Apple (and thousands more) for talent. A lot of these companies have alternate work environments, arcades, movie theaters, giant fish tanks, indoor golf courses, paid meals, and the list goes on and on. You will need to pay very high salaries to get someone above average. If you find a web developer, you'll need to find a way to manage them. Most web developers need direction and guidance. The problem is that there are just too many ways to build websites and web applications. There are too many different platforms, too many 3rd party tools, too many types of servers and hosting, too many security issues, too many web browsers and mobile devices, etc. You need a manager, someone who can sift through all of the needs of the business and figure out the best way to architect the applications. The manager is also tasked with making sure the developer stays focused and motivated. Many web developers get bored if they are working on the same application or website for a long time. Let's say you've forged ahead, hired a web developer and you have someone to manage them and provide guidance. It's a year down the road and you have a business application that has now become critical to your company. Everything is going great, and then the developer comes into work one day and gives a resignation notice. Panic sets in. You now need to start looking for a replacement, and you probably won't be able to find somebody good and get them hired within 2 weeks. There's a lot of knowledge stuck in your developer's head, and you need to use these last days trying to extract that information and get it documented or otherwise transferred to someone else. Then when the replacement starts, you need invest the time to train them and get them up to speed on your critical application. Your new developer doesn't like the way your old developer did things, and so s/he starts changing around the code and implementing things differently. The plan is to eventually migrate the entire application to a new architecture that your new developer has constructed. But other priorities keep coming up and the application never fully gets converted. Then one day the inevitable happens and your new developer presents you with a resignation letter. If you do find yet another developer to replace the one that just left, they now have the difficult job of navigating through your application and trying to decipher the code that is now half rewritten. This proves difficult, and so they just continue to maintain the code as is while adding new functionality to support your business. Some new technologies have come out recently, and so the developer is implementing the new functionality using yet an even newer architecture. Not to mention the fact that you now need a mobile app, and your developer has no experience developing mobile apps. So now you need to hire a mobile app developer. Mobile app developers are in even higher demand than normal application/web developers. If you're serious about running your company on solid custom applications, then the above scenario should be something to avoid. You need to invest in your business and its growth and your employees and getting involved in the details of application development is just too daunting, expensive, and futile. It's just not something that you'll ever catch up on. Technology keeps changing, computers keep changing, and it's incredibly difficult to stay current and keep up with all of the competition, while continuing to provide training and growth for your development team. Instead of hiring your own developers, you should outsource to a company that can handle all of the changes in technology for you. After all, your company is not a web development company, so why get into web development? Building web applications is a complex task, and generally requires multiple people of different talents. These days, a typical web development team is made up of a front end developer, a javascript/ux programmer, a back end developer, a database developer, a mobile app developer, a QA team, a graphic designer, and an application architect. You can't get away with a single developer anymore, not if you want to compete and be relevant and impress your customers. Just make sure to outsource to an American company, where quality is high, communication is easy, and motivation is second to none. In fact, if you're reading this, you've already found one!  

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Categories : Outsourcing | Web Development

Budgeting for Custom Web Development Projects

27

March
2013
Posted By : Brandon Spilove Comments (1)

Every custom web application development project has a budget, even if you think you don't know it or don't want to say what it is. It is important for you and your web development company to understand what the finances are so that we can do the best job possible for you. After all, the goal of your project is most likely to create revenue either directly or indirectly, and your business plan should outline this in detail. The initial investment you can make into your project will play a major factor in the viability of your idea. [More]

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Categories : Web Development

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